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What Your Lover Really Wants to Hear During an Argument

No relationship is immune to the occasional argument, but how—and even when—you decide to hash out disagreements can help ease the difficult times.

One common problem in relationships is knowing what the other person wants. No matter how much your partner would prefer it, you can’t read his or her mind.

When the fighting begins, most couples don’t want apologies, they want their partners to relinquish power, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology.

Keight Sanford, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University, is an expert in the way couples wage war. Previous studies have shown there are two core concerns couples experience during conflict: perceived threat and perceived neglect.

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Perceived threat means one partner feels his or her status in the relationship is challenged by a demanding partner, and perceived neglect involves feelings that a partner has limited investment in the relationship. Neither is good.

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“The things couples want from each other during conflicts will depend on their underlying concerns, and to resolve conflicts, they may need to use different tactics,” Sanford said in a press release. “The husband might buy flowers, and that might be helpful if his partner has a concern involving perceived neglect. But if the partner has a concern involving perceived threat, then the flowers won't do much to address the issue.”

In new research released this week, Sanford and colleagues studied nearly 1,000 couples married between one and 55 years. The researchers interviewed the couples about how they’d like current or ongoing conflicts to be resolved.

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Relinquishing power, Sanford said, is a person’s ability to share control when making decisions. This was the single most important factor couples identified.

Based on their responses, researchers discovered five other things people want from their partners, in order of importance: to show investment, to stop adversarial behavior, to communicate more, to give affection, and to make an apology.

When Not to Start a Fight

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, recently published research about how sleep quality affects a couple’s disagreements in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Science.

They found that couples are more likely to argue after a poor night’s sleep because their conflict resolution skills and ability to accurately gauge their partner’s emotions are impaired.

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“Even among relatively good sleepers, a poor night of sleep was associated with more conflict with their romantic partner the next day,” Serena Chen, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, said in a press release.

Besides potentially harming your relationship, too little sleep is bad for your overall well being. Visit the links below to learn more about how to improve your, ahem, nighttime health.

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